By Michael Prager
In general and as one might expect, discussions at the MIT Energy Conference this past weekend were energetic and forward-thinking, which made a comment by Bernard Neenan of the Electric Power Research Institute (none of their links were working yesterday) stand out:
"We have to recognize we're a federation of states. We can't throw the baby out with the bath water. The industry has to make changes as quickly as appropriate, and that may be different for different regions."
There are germs of truth in the comment, of course — he's well established in the industry. But the first thing that struck me was the complete lack of urgency, that we can just let the changes evolve on whatever schedule arises. That may be the world Mr. Neenan is acclimatized to, but it's not the one I've been hearing about.
Additionally, his suggestion that we recognize grid issues as state-centered, rather than as national, clanged particularly loudly because the luncheon speaker, the well-established energy advocate US Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, had just said practically the opposite.
Imagine if the interstate highway system had been created by a federation of states, each with their own standards, he said. We would have ended up six-lane highways ending at state lines, connecting with two-laners or with nothing at all. And what is the electrical grid but a highway for electrons?
In the Q&A portion of the event, I asked Neenan about this difference of opinion, but his answer was largely nonsubstantive, which he celebrated: After opening with, "oh great, now I have offended a congressman?" he concluded with, "there have I ducked the question well enough?"
Well, yeah, but not quite what I was looking for. What he really conveyed is that he didn't have an answer.
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